Children's eyewitness reports after exposure to misinformation from parents

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2001 Mar;7(1):27-50. doi: 10.1037//1076-898x.7.1.27.


This study examined how misleading suggestions from parents influenced children's eyewitness reports. Children (3 to 8 years old) participated in science demonstrations, listened to their parents read a story that described experienced and nonexperienced events, and subsequently discussed the science experience in two follow-up interviews. Many children described fictitious events in response to open-ended prompts, and there were no age differences in suggestibility during this phase of the interview. Accuracy declined markedly in response to direct questions, especially for the younger children. Although the older children retracted many of their false reports after receiving source-monitoring instructions, the younger children did not. Path analyses indicated that acquiescence, free recall, and source monitoring all contribute to mediating patterns of suggestibility across age. Results indicate that judgments about the accuracy of children's testimony must consider the possibility of exposure to misinformation prior to formal interviews.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Repression, Psychology
  • Suggestion*